Our Top Ten Shopping-For-Kids'-Clothes Tips
Remember those first tiny clothes you bought before the baby arrived? I do, they were so sweet, so tiny, so exciting, I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl (I don’t know if that would have swayed me) and I chose swirling blue and green patterns, yellow stripes and rainbows. I unashamedly love clothes and have passed my passion on to my eldest, so with five years of shopping experience and the input of a five year old, here are our recommendations.
1. Think about what the clothes say to your child
Children often see things very differently to adults, and their thoughts and associations around clothes are so often innocent. For example my son likes running, football and athletics, he is thrilled by a visit to the sports shop and he likes the silky, air-wicking fabrics in bright colours. Unfortunately for me, this means he loves polyester football kits - which put me in mind of macho football culture, and I can’t bear polyester. We’ve had to compromise which has been good for both of us.
2. Take their preference into consideration... but...
Equally, we do not live in a world that’s as easy to navigate and joyful as a child’s mind. It’s normal to worry that children will be judged by other adults and their peers, not to mention our own fears of being judged as a parent. It’s hard to let go and let them go forth in their crazy outfit sometimes, but if they’re happy and you show them you’re relaxed, they’ll likely take it in their stride. If you are uncomfortable, deeply think about what you’re asking them to do by conforming to your expectations before you talk to them, and be sure you’re being reasonable.
3. Avoid slogans and significantly gendered styles
Let children define themselves, don’t let the high street tell them what their characteristics are with vacuous slogans or words. It’s odd for children to wear words they can’t even read. Sometimes boys want to wear dresses and tutus, and sometimes girls do, it’s usually adults who are judging whether that’s ok or not. But it’s also adults creating the garments, choosing the colours and persuading children how they need to conform to certain styles. Keep discussions open when kids choose gendered styles, and try not to define who they are with their clothes, clothes should be fun.
4. Patterns hide the dirt, bright colours are happy for boys and girls
Do you always choose blue and green for boys and pink and yellow for girls? At some level, we’ve all been taught that some colours are for girls and some are for boys. It’s reflected heavily in the shops too, on a recent trip to H&M boys, I was disappointed to find wall-to-wall navy, brown, blue and green. What is this saying to boys? That they must be serious, subdued? That they have no association to flowers or sunshine? Bright and happy shades are appropriate for all children, and patterns really do hide the dirt!
5. Check that older children can dress themselves and let little ones practise
Look out for awkward buttons on the shoulder or sticky zips; children often get frustrated when they’re trying to get dressed and can’t do it themselves. Let younger children practise taking clothes off and putting them on again, although it’s exasperating when you just need to get them ready, it is great practise for when they hit nursery or school. In reception (the first year of formal schooling) kids are expected to be able to get changed for PE without help.
6. Consider the season and the end use
Ensure you’re buying the correct size for the correct season. A lot of friends bought summery clothes when I had a July baby, but a fair few of them were in size 6 months, so by the time they fitted, it was January!
7. Don’t forget about fabric
Kids clothes are often made from natural fibres that won’t irritate skin, but wool can make skin itchy and linen is sometimes scratchy. Polyester, viscose and other manmade materials can keep kids too hot. Just have a feel of the clothes and imagine wearing them all day without being able to remove them yourself! It’s also important to think about the fabric in terms of the end use, if you’re buying things to be worn hard at nursery then choose tougher fabrics that will last through play and one million washing machine cycles.
8. Sizing is different in different stores
If you can take something with you that’s a good fit, you can measure new garments against it (easier than asking a squirmy two year old to try on).
9. Check the seams and fastenings
Just have a gentle pull on a couple of seams and check there’s a bit of give for growth, but not so much that they’ll split on the first wear.
10. Check the washing instructions
Because every parent is under the tyranny of the washing machine.